SUPER GAME — I’m not a huge pigskin fan, but last night’s Super Bowl game was a real nail biter, right down to the very end. I’m certainly intrigued by the Brady-persona; but, last night I just couldn’t believe one minute they were trumping him up and the next, they were burying him. America loves a hero, a fall, and a resurrection. I guess last night, the resurrection wasn’t in the cards. Justin Timberlake never really got his mojo working. I’m a fan, even back to his *NSync days. He looked great (thank you Stella McCartney); moved great, but the audio issues severely dampened the entire proceedings. I did like and appreciate his tribute to Prince, especially when the purple one’s logo was seemingly looped around the outside of the stadium. I actually had to watch it twice because the visage seemed to fly by. “I Would Die 4 U” … great song … always was and always will be. In terms of performances, Bruno Mars and the Purple one himself still rate as the best in my book. JT looked as if he was giving it his all – loved “Sexy Back,” but, performing at the Super Bowl is a calculated risk: It’s the performance of your life – if it works, everyone’s talking about you the next day. If it doesn’t: everyone’s talking about you the next day.
Truth be told, I’d love to see real rock ’n roll music return next year. Maybe Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. Chew on that!
TARGET ONE— If the majors don’t play ball and give in to Target’s new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format.
Even though digital is on the upswing, physical is still performing relatively well on a global basis — if not in the U.S. market, where CD sales were down 18.5 percent last year. But things are about to get worse here, if some of the noise coming out of the big-box retailers comes to fruition.
Best Buy has just told music suppliers that it will pull CDs from its stores come July 1. At one point, Best Buy was the most powerful music merchandiser in the U. S., but nowadays it’s a shadow of its former self, with a reduced and shoddy offering of CDs. Sources suggest that the company’s CD business is nowadays only generating about $40 million annually. While it says it’s planning to pull out CDs, Best Buy will continue to carry vinyl for the next two years, keeping a commitment it made to vendors. The vinyl will now be merchandised with the turntables, sources suggest.
Meanwhile, sources say that Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis. Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit. With consignment, the inventory risk shifts back to the labels.
According to those sources, Target gave the ultimatum to both music and video suppliers in the fourth quarter of last year that it wants to switch to scanned-based trading, with a target date of Feb. 1. But while it is proceeding to push DVD vendors to switch to scan-based trading terms (i.e. the chain would pay for DVDs after they are sold or scanned while being rung up at the register), it has moved the deadline back to music suppliers to either April 1 or May 1. So far, music manufacturers are not sure what they are going to do, but sources within the various camps say that at least one major is leaning no, while the other two majors are undecided.
If the majors don’t play ball and give in to the new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format.
Target has greatly reduced its music presence over the years. Once upon a time carried as many as 800 music titles, and nowadays seems to carry less than 100 titles in most stores. Yet, it can still be a powerful force on big titles. For example, the chain moved over 500,000 CDs of Taylor Swift’s Reputation album.
As a former employee at both Sam Goody and E. J. Korvette’s (both long, long gone retailers), the news saddens me, but is not surprising at all. I still contend that if the quality of music were much, much higher, more and more retailers would be clamoring for it.
LIZ SMITH REMEMBERED — Our colleague Roger Friedman remembered Liz Smith at a memorial service for her last week: Gossip queen Liz Smith did not want a memorial service, said friend Cynthia McFadden today at Liz’s memorial service. But shortly before she died, Liz left a folder on the couch near where she usually sat and made calls. “Exit,” the folder read, “Ta-da!”
Smith had left a list of things to do. At the top, McFadden said, “Book a Shubert Theater.” And so the Majestic was booked on what would have been Liz’s 95th birthday. The stars and A list New Yorkers came in droves: Tommy Tune performed “The Way You Look Tonight,” a song he said Liz had asked him to perform at her funeral.
Speakers included Lesley Stahl, Barry Diller, actress Holland Taylor, Renee Zellweger, Bruce Willis, writer and columnist Billy Norwich, niece Karen Williamson, 19 year old godson Spencer McFadden (son of McFadden and Jim Hoge) literary agent Joni Evans.
In the house: Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, Rex Reed, Kathleen Turner, Griffin Dunne, Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, F. Murray Abraham, author Hannah Pakula (widow of Oscar winning director Alan Pakula), Iris Love, Bob Balaban and wife Lynn Balaban, “Call Me By Your Name” producer Howard Rosenman, Peggy Siegal, Ruth Friendly (widow of broadcaster Fred Friendly) and of course Liz’s office family, famed writers Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, Denis Ferrara and Mary Jo McDonough. (Liz’s actual family was there, too, many drawling Texans).
In heaven: Nora Ephron, Mike Nichols, Elaine Stritch, Elaine Kaufman, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Jackie Kennedy.
Uptown, in bed: Barbara Walters, who let’s decide was sending good thoughts.
Diller talked about sharing a birthday with Liz and with Elaine Stritch, going to the ’21’ Club but departing for the Three Guys Diner after Stritch announced: “This place is a dump!”
Lesley Stahl read Liz’s bio from their Wowowow.com website: “Favorite foods in order of importance, which Liz wrote out herself–chicken fried steak, Campbells’s Tomato Soup, cream gravy, Lay’s potato chips, peanut brittle, caviar, foie gras.” Stahl also pointed out that that Liz, a voracious reader and a closet intellectual. had raised $6 million for Literacy Partners among her many charities.
Joni Evans told the story of her 25 year crusade to get Liz to write her memoir. The first advance, returned, was $10K for $100K. Then Joni got her a $200K advance. Liz wound up sending the money back. “She said, Joni, honey I’m never going to write that book!” Finally, Evans became a literary agent and got Liz a solid offer for $1 million. She called Liz and told her. “She didn’t hesitate. She said; Don’t tell me you turned it down!”
Kudos to Renee Zellweger, who looked great and spoke with a lot of love about her email penpalship with Liz. And Bruce Willis, a bit subdued, who teared up remembering the plugs Liz gave him when she started out in theater and on “Moonlighting.”
It seemed like everyone in the theater went across the street and stuffed themselves into the 4th floor dining room at Sardi’s. There were more laughs and toasts. On the red and white invite McFadden placed Liz’s famous quote: “Gossip is just news running ahead of itself in a red satin dress.” But my favorite quote of Liz’s is one she told me right before taking a summer break in 2016: “Honey, I’m going to come back as a margharita!”
There would be so many fewer people in showbiz and writing about showbiz without Liz Smith, myself very much included. Lesley Stahl wasn’t the only today to remark that Liz was “nice.” Mike Wallace, her old friend, said it on “60 Minutes.” Her incredible run as the premier gossip columnist was only possible because she saw the big picture. She was nice. She cultivated celebrity and had a long fuse. She didn’t rush to judgment. She listened. I can only hope I’ve learned to apply a few of those attributes. Thank you, Lizzie, for everything.
SHORT TAKES — Soprano-Vinny Pastore killed on his first Hawaii-5-O show this past Friday night, as Uncle Vito. Two or three more episodes with him follow. Brilliant! … Author Mark Bego (seen here at the Tucson Gem Show over the weekend) has an in-store for his Eat Like A Rock Star, Saturday at the Barnes & Noble in Tucson. 2:00 PM … I hear that the first 60 Elton John shows on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour are sold-out. Pretty spectacular if you ask me. I’m down for the Thursday, October 18 show here in NYC. Cannot wait … Fashion week in NYC begins today: I hear that Friday’s Nicole Miller show and Saturday’s Christian Siriano, are the two shows to watch. Stay tuned for news … The two movie trailers that really caught my eye last night were, first, The Avenger’s Infinity Warsand the one for Solo – the Han Solo-driven vehicle, Both looked great and the Solo-one shone bright. There was one for the new Jurassic World movie, Fallen Kingdom, but know what? It looked like all the other ones … And, finally went to Primola Saturday night, on NYC’s Upper East Side, and it was positively delicious. Can’t recommend it enough…
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Ray Stevens; Mike Greenly; Barry Zelman; Larry Flick; Brian Chin; Randy Lewis; Chuck Darrow; Jane Blunkell; Alison Martino; Robert Funaro; Robert DeNiro; Vinny Pastore; Alex O’Loughlin; Jeff Smith; Tom Brady and Eppy.